Rory Fallon headed in the lone goal in the 44th minute to give New Zealand a 1-0 win over Bahrain on Saturday and its first World Cup berth in 27 years.
Fallon, an England youth international, headed Leo Bertos's corner past Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Jafaar on Saturday for the only goal of the home-and-away qualifying series. The first leg in Bahrain ended in a scoreless draw.
Fallon was denied moments before scoring when a header attempt was saved by Jafaar.
"I was just praying that wasn't my last chance," Fallon said. "Then Leo put in a great ball and with those I don't miss."
Sayed Adnan had a chance to tie the score in the 50th minute — and put Bahrain through to its first World Cup on the basis of away goals — after New Zealand conceded a free kick when Tony Lochhead brought down Abdulla Omar in the area.
Keeper Mark Paston anticipated Adnan's shot and fell on the ball, thrilling the crowd of 35,000 in Wellington, the largest ever for a soccer match in New Zealand.
"I basically just guessed which way he'd go and the ball ended up in my hands," Paston said. "It's a bit surreal really."
New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert was a defender in the New Zealand team that last reached the World Cup at Spain in 1982.
"I'm speechless," Herbert said. "This group of players has given everything to achieve this dream, everything over the last four years. It's incredible. We're back. We're there. South Africa."
Saturday's match was played in gale force winds and bitter cold, which suited New Zealand's principally aerial game. Bahrain outpaced the Kiwis and was always dangerous on the counterattack but New Zealand was similarly threatening from set plays.
After an early shot from Salman Essa went narrowly wide of the left post, New Zealand began to build concerted pressure on the Bahrain goal. Ben Signmund headed over the bar from a free kick in the eighth minute, then Killen rattled the crossbar from a turning, left-footed shot in the 19th.
Paston twice pulled off desperate saves in the 33rd before Fallon headed the winner.
New Zealand didn't win any of three games at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the country's only experience at the tournament. The team scored twice, but allowed 12 goals matched in a group with powerhouse Brazil as well as Russia.
Nigeria, Cameroon return to big stage
Nigeria overtook Tunisia on the final day of its World Cup qualifying campaign and reached soccer's showcase for the first time since 2002, coming from behind to win 3-2 Saturday at Kenya.
Obafemi Martins scored twice for the Super Eagles, who qualified three straight times starting in 1994 before falling short of the 2006 tournament.
Nigeria (3-0-3) finished first in Group B with 12 points, one ahead of Tunisia (3-1-2), which lost 1-0 at Mozambique.
Dennis Oliech put Kenya ahead in the 16th minute when he beat goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama with a low shot. Martins tied it in the 62nd off a pass from Peter Odemwingie, and Nigeria went ahead three minutes later when Ayegbeni Yakubu hit a post and converted the rebound.
Allan Wetende retied it when he scored off a header in the 79th, but Martins scored again in the 83rd.
At Maputo, Dario scored in the 83rd minute as Mozambique thwarted Tunisia and sent the Carthage Eagles to their first loss in qualifying since their opener in June 2008. Tunisia has appeared in four World Cups, including the last three.
Cameroon qualified for its sixth World Cup, beating Morocco 2-0 Saturday behind goals from Achille Webo and Samuel Eto'o.
After missing the 2006 tournament, the Lions got off to a slow start in the final round of qualifying for 2010, losing to Togo and tying Morocco. But Cameroon (4-1-1) won its final four matches to finish first in Group A with 13 points, four ahead of second-place Gabon (3-3).
The six World Cup appearances for Cameroon are the most among African nations.
Egypt forces playoff with Algeria
Algeria was perhaps seconds from qualifying in Cairo, but Emad Meteab headed in a goal in the fifth minute of second-half injury time, giving Egypt a 2-0 victory over the visitors that forced a tiebreaker playoff between the nations on Wednesday in Sudan.
Amr Zaki scored in the second minute and Meteab, who entered in the 65th, got the goal that forced the playoff. Egypt and Algeria finished tied atop Group C with a 4-1-1 record, nine goals for, four goals against and a 1-1 head-to-head record.